Vanessa DiBernardo, drafted fourth overall by the Red Stars in 2014, has often been described by her teammates as an anchor on a team filled with dependable leadership.
Sunday, she made history and solidified that role, playing her 10,000 minute for the Red Stars in front of 3,301 fans. She is the first player in the club’s history and the sixth player in NWSL history to reach 10,000 minutes with one club.
“In professional sports these days, you don’t have people that stick with the same place for seven, eight or nine years,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “It’s a compliment to her and her durability. It’s great for the club and it’s great for the city because she’s one of our own.”
The Red Stars came into the match in fifth place looking for their third straight win and got it against OL Reign 3-1. Their three added points moved the Red Stars into first place in the league temporarily as the Thorns and the Pride played Sunday night.
The match opened with an early goal from Bethany Balcer on a cross from Celia Jimenez in the 12th minute of play. OL Reign had scored four of their previous seven goals in the first 15 minutes of play. It was Balcer’s third goal in two games for OL Reign.
In the 48th minute, the Red Stars scored on an own goal from Jimenez, their fourth of the season. The Red Stars followed it with two more goals, another own goal in the 55th minute by Alana Cook and a goal from Mallory Pugh in the 64th minute. The assist came from Kealia Watt who also notched 10,000 minutes in the NWSL Sunday evening.
Pugh said post-game that she believed their second own goal was actually scored by Tatumn Milazzo and hopes that will be recognized. Dames said they are going to request that goal be reviewed.
The Red Stars have scored five own goals this season setting a new single-season record in the NWSL. In 2019 the Portland Thorns had four own goals in a season.
Cassie Miller, who earned the starting goalkeeper position in the absence of Alyssa Naeher, came up with a huge save in stoppage time. The Reign had 10 shots, three on goal.
Next up the Red Stars play Gotham FC on the road. It will be the clubs’ second meeting this season. Their previous match ended in a scoreless draw.
“This year is going to be a super tight table,” DiBernardo said. “We’re excited to be [in first] but we know it’s going to take a lot to stay there.”